Big Ten spotlight: Michigan's Brandon Graham
September, 4, 2009
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Scott Boehm/Getty Images|
|Despite some of the off-the-field issues facing Michigan, defensive end Brandon Graham says the team is focused.|
Welcome to a new feature on the Big Ten blog, a Q&A with a player or a coach from the conference that will be posted every Friday throughout the fall. I'll be in Ann Arbor this weekend for Michigan-Western Michigan (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), so first up is Michigan senior defensive end Brandon Graham.
A second-team All-Big Ten selection last year, Graham tied for the league lead in tackles for loss (20) and has recorded 18.5 sacks during the last two seasons. He's the lone returning starter on the Wolverines' defensive line. Graham wasn't allowed to comment specifically on the allegations facing the football program, but he weighed in on several other topics.
What are the personal goals you set for yourself going into this season?
Brandon Graham: I set individual goals, but at the same time, I'm a team player. I'm just trying to get everybody to work as a team on the defense. That's my main focus. I come in and try not to have bad days. When I'm down and I don't feel like practicing, I dig deep and try to let nobody see me sweat, so they always thinking I'm ready to go. Then they have that attitude and carry it on when I leave here.
How have your responsibilities changed with a new coordinator [Greg Robinson] and a new scheme?
BG: It hasn't really changed. We just move a lot on the line, and I drop back in coverage a little bit, so it's kind of nice. I used to do [pass coverage], but it's not as much as we do it now. I adapted to the whole scheme. I know it inside and out now. That's the best part. I can help other people on their positions because I've got it down. I still need work, but that's what practice is for.
Are you expecting double teams right off the bat?
BG: Yeah, that's why I'm working hard now. Last year, I got a lot of double teams, but this year, it's going to be more.
How do you beat a double team on a consistent basis?
BG: Just being in shape. I feel like if I'm full-go, nobody can stop me. It would be frustrating if my teammates don't make plays. When I'm taking one guy off another guy, he should be making a play. As long as he's doing that, I'm happy.
What element of your game did you work on the most during the offseason?
BG: I cut some weight. I want to be able to go all the time, non-stop, without even thinking about getting out [of the game]. I cut down 10 [pounds]. It was 15 at one point, almost 20, but I ended gaining some back because I was getting a little bit too small. I'm at 260. It feels real good. Being able to go and being able to be out there communicating without sucking for air, that's good.
You guys are facing a pretty good quarterback on Saturday. How important is it for you to put consistent pressure on [Tim] Hiller?
BG: It's going to be real important. He likes to sit back there, and he'll pick you apart if he doesn't have to move his feet. He just sits there, plants and lets it go. He's letting it go quick, so all we have to do is be in his face. I know he likes to get rid of that ball, and he's real accurate, so we've got to tighten up in the secondary, and we'll be OK. Give us some time to hit home on the D-line.
I know you've made some predictions in the past. Got any for this season?
BG: No, I have none. Just got to get a win.
There's been a lot of attention off the field with what's been going on. How is the team in terms of chemistry and how do you feel you'll come out on Saturday?
BG: The chemistry is good. I like it a lot. We're going to come out there high energy all the way through the game and ready to go every play. I don't see us slacking off at all during that game, or any of these games, because we're hungry.
Are you confident that everyone's on board now?
BG: Oh, yeah, everybody's on the same page, everybody's anxious for the game, everybody wants to do what it takes to be able to win 12 games this year. That's what we're doing. We're working and competing every day in practice, so when the game comes, it's like practice.
Has everything that happened this week at Michigan brought you guys together any more?
BG: Oh, yeah. Everybody hangs out with everybody now. That's one thing that changed in my years being here. There are no more cliques. If somebody says, 'Let's go here,' everybody wants to come. We hang out a little bit more. We're more of a team.